It’s been a few weeks since the loss of Monsignor Damien Nalepa. Not only was he a wonderful priest at St. Gregory the Great, but his presence in the community was a reminder that it is possible to stand up to the violence and drugs that can plague any neighborhood.
Father Damien only lived 3 blocks down the street away from me. I frequently passed his house on my runs down to the track at Carver Vo-Tech High School. I remember passing by one day and seeing him hurry off to some duties. The funny part about it was that he was walking faster than I was running!
CR File photo
My mother’s family grew up Catholic and regularly attended St. Gregory’s until everyone started to move away. But St. Gregory’s was never far from our hearts and minds.
One thing that has stuck in my mind since Father Damien’s passing is that he truly exemplified that one person can truly make a difference. Although he didn’t like to take credit for his work, it was an inspiration to more than one community. And that’s no small task considering one block up from his house are plenty of houses that have been raided for all sorts of crimes.
So, with Father Damien gone, and his earthly work done, it remains on the rest of us, as it always has, to stand in the gap between those who wish to build the community and those who wish to tear it down.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I will stand in that gap. I am tired of people too scared to get involved; people who know about crimes and let them continue. I can’t change anyone else, but I can change myself to make a difference in my community.
Who’s with me?